Sunday, October 4, 2009

Something's Fishy

When my oldest daughter turned two, a family friend bought her a small fish tank with two gold fish as a birthday gift. She thought these two fish were the coolest things! One was just a regular orange fan-tail gold fish and the other was calico colored. At the time, her favorite movie was "Milo and Otis". It's an annoyingly cute tail of an orange cat named Milo and his little friend who was a brown pug named Otis. So naturally the names were fitting for her new fishy friends.
As time went on, she became used to having these two fish in her room. We made it kind of a hobby getting little fishy decor for their tank and teaching her the responsibility of having a pet. My husband and I figured that fish were good starter pets. They are relatively low maintenance. You don't have to entertain them, they don't need to be walked and best of all, they don't pee on the carpet! Not to mention, if one croaks, you just flush it down the toilet. I mean, does anyone really get emotionally attached to a fish??
Two years later, the fish , Yes the same fish, were alive and well and about to answer that question. My daughter, now four, was getting ready for bed one night when she noticed that Milo (the orange one) was "hiding" on the bottom of the tank. "Mommy,Daddy,some thing's wrong with Milo." My husband goes to check on the situation, and reports back to me, that Milo has indeed traveled to the great "Fish heaven in the sky". I'm thinking GREAT! right before bed the damn thing dies! What are we going to tell our daughter. Should we tell her the truth, or lie? So, we decided she was old enough to hear the truth. We explained to her that Milo was very old and lived a great life in his tank in her room. But, our pets don't live forever and Milo has gone to heaven.
I had barely finished my sentence and my daughter bursts in to tears!! NO! MILO YOU CANT DIE! she is screaming hysterically. At that moment I felt as though I had stolen some small piece of her childhood innocence. She was happy and laughing only a few minutes before and I decided to thrust her into the hard reality of life and death 20 minutes before bed! What was I thinking? My husband and I looked at each other and decided to do what any good parents would do... Lie our asses off!! "No, No, honey Milo's not dead" I said. "Daddy was wrong, he's just sleeping!" "Silly me!" Her tears still rolling down her cheeks, she quietly says , "he is?" "It's working!" I'm thinking. She walks over to the tank and starts to giggle a little. "He looks like he's sleeping". "Silly Daddy!"
After we tucked her into bed, the "Oh crap" moment officially set in! It was like, 10pm at night! Where are we going to get another fish at 10 o'clock at night? Luckily, Petsmart was open till 11. So my husband races there and buys a new "Milo" to preform the old switcharoo with. He calls to tell me that he is on his way, and to warn me that the only fish they had that resembled Milo was a tad bit smaller. I didn't think much of it. I figured she wouldn't notice and if she did, we would just play it off. When My husband walked in the door holding this fish, I had to break out a magnifying glass to see it! The damn thing was just a baby! She may be only four, but there was no way she wouldn't notice that Milo is all of a sudden 3x smaller than he was the night before! Luckily, my husband has always been a quick thinker! He sneaks into her room and in her partially roused state of consciousness, he tells her that he is giving Milo some medicine to make him better. He also tells her that one of the side effects of the medicine, is that Milo may shrink a little! She was so happy that daddy was going to make Milo better, that she didn't pay attention to anything else.
She woke the next morning and ran to the fish tank and greeted
the fish as she always did. She mentioned that Milo was a lot smaller, but told me not to worry. "Daddy gave him some shrinking medicine!" she said. From that point on, that became our dirty little secret! Every time we looked at those two fish, we were reminded of the night we did everything we could to protect her from how cruel reality can sometimes be. Maybe we were doing her a disservice by not telling her the truth. I like to think we were extending the innocence of childhood, that is gone all too soon.